Cumberland Times-News


July 3, 2013

KAY O. “KO” NELSON [Cumberland]

CUMBERLAND — Kay O. “KO” Nelson, 90, of Pinto, passed away on Tuesday, July 2, 2013, at his home.

“KO” was born in Shipshewana, Ind., on March 24, 1923. He was the son of the late Joseph E. and Amanda (Mishler) Nelson. He was also preceded in death by two brothers, Vinton and Gary.

His mother noticed that he was always singing so he began piano at the age of six. Music became a major part of KO’s life. Throughout his life he sang in many musical groups including choruses, quartets, octets and Barbershop ensembles. His favorite musical experience was participating in the presentation of Handel’s Messiah which he performed 43 times. He liked to recount that he had memorized the Hallelujah Chorus by the time he was in eighth grade.

He graduated from Goshen College, where he was active in sports and music. He was a member of the Men’s Chorus and A Cappella Chorus. It was here that he met his wife of 66 years, Colleen Barton.

He was a veteran of World War II, where he served in the 90th Field Hospital, Philippine Islands as a surgical assistant. His last assignment was in hospital administration. He was a member of both the basketball and softball champions on Mindanao Island. He also served as a chaplains’ assistant for both Catholic and Protestant services. He began playing organ in the service. He played a folding, pump, chaplain’s organ in the field. On the way home, he played organ for the returning 5000 troops on the ship.

At the end of the war, KO worked at Barton’s Dairy with his new father-in-law. After the dairy was sold, he worked as a microbiologist at Allegany Ballistic Laboratory. Later he worked for the State of Maryland as Unemployment Insurance and Job Development Office Manager.  

He was a member of the Cresaptown United Methodist Church where he served on the Official Board; the Music Committee and was the church organist for 46 years. He was past president of the Cumberland Choral Society; the Allegany Beagle Club; past member of the CCSAC Credit Union Supervisory Committee; Past President of the Cumberland Kiwanis Club; a past member of the Allegheny Flying Club; the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association; BPO Elks; United Commercial Travelers and a past officer in the Allegheny Beekeepers Association.

In retirement, he took up golfing. He was a member of Polish Pines Golf Club where he scored two holes-in-one.

He is survived by his wife Colleen Barton; four children Brent Nelson and wife Kathy, of Columbia, Brad Nelson and wife Becky, of Russell, Pa., Beth Nelson, of Muir Beach, Calif and Berri Nelson, of Pompano Beach, Fla; four grandchildren, Darbee  Harrington and husband Andrew, of Russell, Pa., Dru Bleem and husband Tom, of Saegertown, Pa., Hunter Nelson, of Fort Worth, Texas and Tennessee Hildebrand, of Muir, Calif. and two great-grandchildren, Lucas Bleem and Lillian Grace Bleem. He is also survived by his brother, Dr. A.B. Nelson, of LaGrange, Ind.

Friends will be received at Scarpelli Funeral Home, McMullen Highway, Cresaptown ( on Saturday, July 6, from 1 to 3:45 p.m.

A funeral service will follow on Saturday at 4 p.m. in the Cresaptown United Methodist Church with the Rev. Hal Atkins, the Rev. Harold McClay and the Rev. Johnny Crist officiating. A private family burial will follow in the Barton Cemetery.

Pallbearers are John Jack McMullin, Hunter Nelson, Roger Nelson, Matt Christianson, Andrew Harrington and Tom Bleem.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to Hospice or The Cresaptown United Methodist Church.

The family would like to thank his loving caretakers, Hospice and his church community.

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